I’ve read a few articles on Vocal and Medium about using SEO (search engine optimization for the tiny fraction of people who don’t know what that stands for), in helping their articles reach wider audiences, go viral, and potentially, make more money.
And when I’ve read these articles, I’ve always been like naahhhh, that’s not for me. Targeting my writing specifically with SEO in mind, personally, somehow seems a little bit…disingenuous? Maybe that’s not the right word. But at least for fiction writing, it seems a bit…like you’re trying to fit your writing into a wrong-shaped mold. Shoving your square words into a round hole.
Writing anything non-fiction – like coping with trauma, or how to write a bestseller, or how to start a commune or grow your own veggies, or how to launch the next big start-up company? Those things seem to mesh perfectly with the idea behind SEO. But writing about monsters and mechanical people and wizards and the like? Not so much.
It seems like too much of a hassle. Too much of a pain in the you-know-what, trying to research to come up with the perfect title and subtitle with all the right keywords, and those same keywords probably peppered through your piece. It seemed too much like genetically modified engineering – for the writing world anyway. And since I (mostly) write fiction, I don’t think there’s tons of wiggle room for including those keywords that grab people’s attention in fictional stories. I mostly write fantasy – steampunk or dystopian or paranormal. Stuff that doesn’t lend itself well to Google searches!
So imagine my surprise when I looked at my stats on my Vocal.Media and saw that one of my short stories I’d posted just a couple days ago suddenly had 89 views! Now, 89 views might not seem like a lot. And in the grand scheme of things it isn’t. But compared to my other stuff when I initially share it? It sure is. But I’d promoted it the same way I’d promoted all my other short stories so far – sharing it on my personal Facebook, author Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So what happened? What had I done differently this time? And what was the magic formula that I could repeat again?
So I woke up this morning to 89 views on my fictional short story, and I was like uhh….what’s going on? Why does this have almost 100 views? It was just a short story! Nothing special. Nothing super inspiring, or motivational or groundbreaking. It was just a piece of fiction!
So I shared my confusion on the various Vocal Facebook groups I belong to, and some people realized that it was probably due to SEO – based on the title. Which doesn't have too much to do with the story itself, to be honest. It was a title that was given as part of a flash fiction writing contest and I wrote the story based on that, a whole six years ago! I recently decided to dig the story up (along with a bunch of other fictional short stories), and publish them on the Vocal platform.
If you want to read the story (and the title that’s magically caused so much fuss!) you can check it out here.
I hadn’t given it too much thought when I re-published the story – seeing how I originally wrote it 6 years ago – before, well, everything that has happened since! But as people have pointed out, right now, the title, those 3 little words, have so much power and relevance to so much of what is happening in the world right now. I’m just hoping that people won’t be disappointed when they realize it’s a totally fictional short story – and not only that, an open-ended short story (which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and which is why I put the author warning at the start).
So if you’re wondering how to get started in the confusing (to me anyway) world of SEO in order to get noticed, maybe you’ll be like me and just accidentally stumble into it unknowingly!
It has made me realize the power that words have. So use them wisely and, ideally, for good. The pen really is mightier than the sword, as they say.
Does anyone else have stories of accidentally discovering SEO through their writing, without meaning to? I’d be curious to hear!
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